Health Tracking Apps Privacy: Houston doctors are suspicious of third-party ad-supported trackers

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — Three experts speaking to ABC13 on Friday warned against using websites and apps to track your health and fitness.

They said you should not use programs developed by external developers if you want your privacy to stay that way.

“They don’t have privacy,” said Dean Sittig, Ph.D., of UTHealth Houston.

Sittig said information entered into your online patient portal, which is being developed by your healthcare provider, is protected by HIPAA laws.

Apps created by external developers, such as B. those that track your fitness, cycle, or heart rate are not.

“You open yourself up to someone learning about you,” Sittig said of using these trackers.

He added that free apps tend to sell your data the worst because they make money from it.

dr Hardeep Singh of Baylor College of Medicine says he doesn’t use these apps, but anyone looking for information about an app or website should check with reputable sources.

“Trusted websites and government websites would be the way to go,” Singh said. “I would be concerned about some of the chat boxes and websites that diagnose patients.”

Both doctors said that WebMD provides trustworthy information, but it uses your history on the site to target advertising to your various ailments or concerns.

Singh and Sittig agree that misinformation, not privacy, is their biggest concern when it comes to services built by outside developers.

“For example, if your doctor suggested, ‘Here’s a good app to monitor your pregnancy,’ that would be a good way to get it,” Sittig said. “Instead of going to the App Store and typing in pregnancy and just picking one that comes up.”

In addition, an Associated Press article on the ABC News website cited some women’s fears that their internet history could be used against them if Roe v. Wade should be repealed.

Their concern is whether officials or vigilante groups could use this information against them.

Chris Bronk, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Houston School of Technology, didn’t rule it out, but said it wasn’t an immediate problem.

“I don’t think it’s a serious problem, but it’s definitely something that’s possible,” Bronk said. “There’s a lot of information out there, but being prosecuted based on an internet search would probably have to be something that looks a lot more like an act of terrorism or a crime.”

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